The summer of 2019 is set to be another big one for NBA free agents. The top name to watch is Kevin Durant, who can again opt out of his contract with the Warriors to become a free agent. He did the same thing this past July, opting out before re-signing another 1-and-1 deal that gives him flexibility for this coming summer.
There were reports at the time that LeBron James reached out to Durant about joining him on the Lakers, with KD demurring. The pairing would likely dominate, with many considering Durant the second-best player in the league these days, but the Warriors' lanky shot maker explained in an an excellent Ric Bucher-penned feature for Bleacher Report the inherent difficulties in joining forces with the best player of his generation and perhaps the GOAT.
"It depends on what kind of player you are," Durant said of who fits and who doesn't with James. "If you're Kyle Korver, then it makes sense. Because Kyle Korver in Atlanta was the bulk of the offense, and he's not a No. 1 option at all, not even close. So his talents benefit more from a guy who can pass and penetrate and get him open."
He went on: "If you're a younger player like a Kawhi [Leonard], trying to pair him with LeBron James doesn't really make sense. Kawhi enjoys having the ball in his hands, controlling the offense, dictating the tempo with his post-ups; it's how he plays the game. A lot of young players are developing that skill. They don't need another guy."
It's an astute assessment of the type of player who assimilates alongside LeBron, and for those executives, fans and reporters reading the tea leaves, KD justifiably considers himself in the same class as a Kawhi (and likely above him, if we're being honest). So, the idea of Durant opting out in the Bay to head south and join LeBron in L.A. is rather remote if you read those comments in a vacuum.
But Durant also discussed how some tertiary stars, who largely haven't gotten the esteem they should, changed their games to meld more cohesively with the ball-dominant LeBron. Regardless of your talents, you're a bit player in any orbit around James; how you cope and adjust to that fact goes a long way toward how successful that player might be.
Durant said Kevin Love "had to totally change his game to fit," similarly to Chris Bosh. "LeBron is a player that needs to play with guys that already know how they play the game—and shooters. Like, young players that are still developing, it's always going to be hard because he demands the ball so much, he demands control of the offense and he creates for everybody."
Perhaps the surest sign Durant isn't likely to be adorned in purple and gold next season or any season after that, was when he talked about the media hellscape that emanates out from LeBron, particularly in as large a market as Los Angeles. The way KD drags beat reporters—to a reporter—encapsulates his often prickly relationship with the media. As if beat reporters around a LeBron team are succumbing to some magic elixir by objectively pointing out how transcendent a talent he's been.
"So much hype comes from being around LeBron from other people," Durant said. "He has so many fanboys in the media. Even the beat writers just fawn over him. I'm like, we're playing basketball here, and it's not even about basketball at certain points. So I get why anyone wouldn't want to be in that environment because it's toxic. Especially when the attention is bullshit attention, fluff. It's not LeBron's fault at all; it's just the fact you have so many groupies in the media that love to hang on every word. Just get out of the way and let us play basketball."
The sycophancy Durant speaks of definitely exists, but that's forgetting the first part of LeBron's story and the redemption narrative that now encases him in an impenetrable bubble of enthusiastic paeans to his greatness. That, and the man has been to eight straight Finals! But we're old enough to have published more than a few articles about what a narcissist James was after his 2010 Decision and ensuing year as the villain with the 2010-11 Heat. If KD keeps winning Finals MVPs after leaving the Warriors, that "bullshit attention" and "toxic" environment might follow him around too.